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Tuesday, October 13, 2009
ROB HALFORD'S METAL GOD APPAREL LINE
ROB HALFORD teaches a lesson in HOW -TO successfully Expand Your Brand
TEXT, VIVIAN G. KELLY
TIME & PLACE: Sept. 30, 2009
The 2nd floor suite of the Cooper Square Hotel
Even if you're clueless when it comes to heavy metal, as we were, you've heard of rock legend, ROB HALFORD. We were curious to see what the metal god had in mind for a clothing line, especially what he'd come up with for us ladies.
WHAT WE ENVISIONED-
Lots of leather and studs [timely, after seeing the sp/sum '10 collections, deafening "head-banger" music and scary makeup.
WHAT WE SAW -
A bunch of casually, but well-dressed guys quietly talking by the coffee bar and a rack of eye-catching t-shirts.
Whoever said that rockers don't have a head for business has obviously not met Rob or his longtime Manager/alter-ego, JOHN BAXTER.
Although Mr. Baxter, a soft-spoken guy with a mop of curly hair prefers "to stay in the background", he graciously gave us a crash course in the politics of rock and roll and how it's all changed - forever. He also shared his thoughts on branding and how he and Rob continue to build on and expand their brand, despite the challenges of today's market.
THE FASHION EXAMINER: We know that Rob was the lead singer for JUDAS PRIEST. When did he go solo?
JOHN BAXTER: He went solo in 1992 and reunited with the band in 1999.
FE: How does Heavy Metal fit into what's going on today?
J. BAXTER: Actually, it's great. We're now in a heavy metal craze, so the timing is very good. We're taking that window to get a number of projects going. Rob's been re-releasing works and he's playing in Tokyo at Makahari Messe on October 17th.
WE've got BRUTAL LEGEND [the video game] he's done with Jack Black coming out for the Holidays. There will also be a film, BRUTAL LEGEND, also with Jack Black coming out as a follow-up.
FE: How long have you been with Rob?
J. BAXTER: Since 1978, it's been an amazing ride. We're focused on expanding the brand.
FE: Where does the t-shirt line fit into the strategy?
J. BAXTER: We've been selling millions of dollars of t-shirts, and those are just plain black concert tees.
The Rob Halford line we're showing today is a give-back. There's more attention to the actual garment, the tees are soft, well made.
FE: How do Rob's tees compare to the other lines in this genre like say, Ed Hardy?
J. BAXTER: I'm told by the people who do Ed Hardy, that our shirts are off the charts.
FE: You're just getting started. Who else is involved and what will they be selling for? What's your target price?
J. BAXTER: MARC SASSO gave us two designs to start-off with. As you can see [points to the rack], we've got more than that now and also some women's tees.
We'll be selling them for $35-45 a piece at the concerts, like in Madison Square Garden. The Garden is all union so we'll reduce our profit margin - we want the fans to have them.
If you buy them from us on line, they're $60-90 a shirt.
FE: What's the strongest style so far? [They're currently available on www.metalgodapparel.com]
J. BAXTER: Cerebus, and I've already seen someone wearing it in LA, on the street.
FE: You've got Rob involved in a lot of projects! It couldn't have just happened. When did you start setting this all up?
J. BAXTER: In 2002, I read the tea leaves and it was good timing, absolutely, because by 2004, all the bands went away and we were one of the few left. I'd gotten him into film, the website, games and now the apparel.
FE: When was "the beginning of the end" for the bands?
J. BAXTER: When the burnable CD player came. These days, I don't know who's stealing my stuff, and neither do other managers and musicians. We can't control the distribution of creative works - noone can. It's not just limited to music though. Look at the author Dan Brown, he's gotten ripped-off too!
FE: What's the solution?
J. BAXER: There will have to be Government intervention. We need an Internet system that protects us.
AT THAT POINT, ROB HALFORD WALKS IN, SMILES AND SHAKES OUR HAND AND JUMPS SEAMLESSLY INTO THE CONVERSATION.
FE: Rob, what do you make of this new generation of kids who are embracing metal?
ROB HALFORD: It's a global phenomenon, but one that's taken longer to break down due to the negative image Metals' had, but it's happened, nonetheless. I believe that EVERYONE, regardless of who they are and what they do, has got that rock and roll spirit.
WE LEFT THE HOTEL REFLECTING THAT WITH JOHN BAXTER'S MANAGEMENT SAVVY AND ROB'S WILLINGNESS TO GO OUT AND MEET THE PRESS, ATTEND TRADE SHOWS SUCH AS MAGIC, THAT THIS NEWBIE LINE WILL BECOME YET ANOTHER OF ROB HALFORD'S SUCCESSES.
We tried on the baby blue waffle shirt we'd receive on exiting and were impressed by how soft it felt. The reaction was overwhelmingly favorable when we showed it to a seventeen year old girl and a former Metal groupie who's moved on to banking but still maintains her rock and roll spirit.
Images of the Collection, Richard Spiegel and courtesy of Rob Halford
Image of Rob Halford & Vivian G. Kelly taken by John Baxter